Sound — 7
After a nearly five year hiatus from music, Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius return with this 36 minute three track album. Drone along with psychedelic and almost meditative grooves, this album either will pull you in or turn you off. From a sound perspective the bass is very crisp, somewhat dry and powerful. The drums feel like tribal beats on par with Hakius' playing on "Dopesmoker." This more free-form long journey approach to playing and composing is strongly apparent in this release and to a more progressive extent, later albums up to today's "Advaitic Songs."
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on "Variations on a Theme," as well as all Om albums, are indirect, story-like and spiritual. At times it can be a bit hard to get the unusual approach and take on vocals and lyrics, it, along with the other elements that make Om, are meant more to go along with the atmosphere and direct the listener towards their own experience and story. Chant and meditative are the easiest ways of describing the lyrical approach. Themes include ancient religious rights, spiritual freedom, the journey of life and the experience of ongoing, never ending existence and finding peace and serenity. Of course this is just my interpretation.
Overall Impression — 8
If there were any complaints to be made about "Variations on a Theme," it would be that it can try your patience, especially for first time listeners. But that is an important part of Om. Patience. Upon further listening I found the grooves and riffs to be hypnotizing and easy to drift along to. 1. "On the Mountain at Dawn" - Om starts with a screeching bass riff that starts the pilgrimage with strong head-nodding stomp. Over 21 minutes, the song shifts and changes into a more psychedelic realm. 2. "Kapila's Theme" - This one's all about the groove. Keeping things moving along, the main purpose of this song comes across as keeping things moving and keeping the caravan together. A solid track. 3. "Annapurna" - The song that got me into Om, this riff grabs you and doesn't let got for more than 11 straight minutes. One single riff. With only a time change halfway in, this is a hypnotic bass line that leaves the album on a high, if ambiguous, note.